To say we are happy to see 2020 behind us is an understatement! Although, all things considered, the effect of Covid on us was minimal. Yes we had to make some reservation and travel changes, but otherwise, through all our travels the last 9 months, we have remained healthy. We still think that this RV lifestyle was the best way for us to social distance.
We welcomed in the New Year in our home for the next several months in Lady Lake, FL. We decided to stay in place for 4+ months at Recreation Plantation. This is definitely a change for us! We tend to get "hitch itch" around the 2 month marker so this should be interesting come March.
There are a couple reasons we chose to stay here that long. #1 is that I will be working on taxes again this year remotely and will need stable internet service. Recreation Plantation has screaming fast dedicated internet hook up at the site and with the help of our personal wifi router, we have our own internet throughout the rig. If you remember past posts, with the extended tax season, I ended up working on taxes in the bottom of a canyon in TX. That was rough and a test of patience to wait for screens to upload! This should be a much better experience.
We stayed at this resort in 2018-2019 for a week and really enjoyed ourselves. In addition to the internet, we also have cable at the site. We are in the newer section of the resort which is mostly all RV's and the sites are decent size and not packed in awning to awning. We are able to set up the clam shelter and awning screen to provide a nice outside area to enjoy the great weather.
The resort also has alot to do, including pickleball, pool and hot tub, cards, exercise room and classes, live music and food trucks, weekly produce truck, not to mention alot of walking space as the park is quite large with more than 1000 sites! The folks here are super friendly and respectful of distancing.
Since we are going to be here for several months while I work on taxes, we decided Rick would also look at doing some work. Ok, maybe it was more my insisting so he wouldn't sit and watch me work! :-) He checked into workamping at the resort, however their workamper positions were already filled and they also have a FT staff. With his culinary skills, the next logical choice was to look for a seasonal cook position in the area. After applying to a couple positions while still in WI over the holidays, he was able to score a perfect position at a breakfast/brunch restaurant a couple miles from the resort. He will work part time as a line cook with no management responsibilities and be done by 3pm. Perfect! No late nights and I will work on my taxes when he is working, since my job is flexible. This will leave us plenty of time to spend together exploring. With both of us working for a bit, it also allows us to bank some money to pay for our big excursion in 2021. With the help of our wonderful friends who own Tom Golden Travel, we will be taking an Alaskan cruise/rail/resort adventure for our 25th anniversary. Booking in 2020 during the Covid pandemic allowed us to score several complimentary upgrades. We are excited for that cruise in September and are hopeful that the Canadian border is open and cruises are back on schedule.
Outside of getting all setup here in FL after our month in WI, we have laid pretty low. We are located just outside the Villages so we have family and friends in the area to visit. We also have every restaurant and store within reach, and I am sure we will become very spoiled by that convenience. In addition to walking in the resort, I have also been researching all of the hiking trails and parks for us to visit and maybe even some kayaking with manatees.
We also took advantage of the FL Resident deals that were just released at Walt Disney World. 3 days at the Disney Parks for $179 is a great deal considering a single day ticket is $109 normally. Another plus is those 3 days do not need to be consecutive. We can use the 3 days whenever we want outside of a couple blackout dates, until June. You still need to make a reservation to visit the parks with the capacity limits currently in place and in talking with a family that was just there, FastPass is not needed since there really isn't long wait lines. We may finally get to go on some rides that have been just to long of lines to wait for.
We wish everyone health and happiness in 2021! Stay tuned for more of our adventures from Central Florida...
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Wow, that title really puts into perspective our last two and a half months of the year! The time has surely flown by! It was filled with many happy times, some sad, but always surrounded by wonderful people!
We spent almost two months at a great workamping gig in Marble, NC at Valley River RV Resort. We arrive October 11th and had to leave , unexpectedly, a week early in early December. We interviewed with the prior manager back in April and were interested in the area, so we accepted the positions of maintenance and front desk. In July we received a call from the new manager, had good feelings about them and decided to still go despite COVID. We are soo glad we did! We were a bit nervous as this would be our first private campground workamping positions and were not quite sure what to expect. We read lots of reviews online and heard some good things and numerous horror stories of other RV'ers experiences when they worked at a private campground. Well those folks certainly did not work at Valley River! We met some great folks and really enjoyed our time there. The work was not hard (well ok, maybe Rick's digging deep holes to fix water leaks), but other than that there were daily tasks to be done in the office and in Rick's outside work such as shower house cleaning, pool chemicals, checking in and guiding guests to sites, making reservations and mowing lawn. We had a great group of workampers and the managers truly cared about their staff and jumped right in to help. Thanksgiving with our group was fantastic with lots of food and great company. We were even able to help begin the Christmas decorations. We will certainly be back when our travels bring us to NC. It is a beautiful area with gorgeous views everywhere you go!
eWe had alot of of off time to explore the area and even visit our old stomping grounds in northeast GA. One day we visited Hanging Dog Recreation Area just up the road in Murphy, NC on Hiwassee Lake. The views were amazing and during our hike we came across a very old, but still used cemetary. There were some old graves dating back to the mid 1800's but then a newer one, dating to 1976. You just never know what you'll come across when your out hiking.
Another day we took a drive to explore the Cherohala Skyway which winds for 43 miles through the Smoky Mountains from Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville, NC. It was completed in 1996 and is quickly becoming one of the top rated motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts drives in the U.S. We would agree, that the views are amazing and it is a must do when in the area. There are no towns or amenities along the drive, just you and nature. There are some pull offs along the way to stop and take pictures and a nice little visitor center in Tellico Plains to learn more about the area.
Yet another drive took us on the southern end of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway known as the Pisgah Region from Asheville to Cherokee, where it terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains. This section contains the highest point of the Parkway, well over 6.000 feet above sea level, over 250 waterfalls, tunnels and several forests such as Pisgah National Forest. The views did not disappoint and we even caught a glimpse of some elk relaxing in the shade.
One afternoon we were looking for a quick hike in the area and found an interesting hike on my AllTrails app. Toccoa Hanging Bridge is a short hike and the very narrow, one lane dirt road to it is longer and much more challenging with a dually truck! The swinging bridge was constructed in 1977 by the Forest Service in cooperation with the Appalachian Trail Club as it picks up the trail for a bit. The bridge really does swing and rises above the rambling Toccoa River.
Yet another driving tour, (yep lots of driving tours because the beauty abounds in this area!), was through the Great Smoky National Park. We have been to the Park a couple of times in the past and this time our focus was on the Roaring Fork Auto Tour. We have never been on this little known drive, well little known to us because there were lots of vehicles cruising through this one way, narrow road tour that is just outside of Gatlinburg. I probably would not recommend taking the drive in a dually as it is narrow, with about an inch on each side of the road and bridges that often do not have a straight on drive and requires a very slow, crossing once you are able to line the truck up. The road is winding and a couple times we had to do a three point turn to get around the hairpin turn. It is amazing to see the rugged terrain where many called home and farmed the land for years. The Roaring Fork river meandered throughout the auto tour and although not a huge river, it did have quite a loud, roaring sound, hence the name.
We also drove into Gatlinburg to have a late breakfast at Ruby Sunshine while viewing the skywalk and downtown strip, which was busy with tourists. You would never know there was a pandemic, except for the masks. We even saw another herd of elk as we left the park and drove into Cherokee.
We did have a couple other outings to our old stomping grounds, drove past our old house, went to Brasstown Bald, took a stroll through Hamilton Gardens in Hiawassee, GA and a stroll on the dam on Lake Chatuge. However, due to a corrupt SD card, we lost several pictures. Here are a few we were able to salvage.
Our time in NC was cut short, with Rick's dad's health declining, we decided to fly home to WI early to spend time with him. With the weather turning to snow and ice in NC, we made a beeline to our winter spot in FL at Recreation Plantation where we were able to move up our reservation for the entire month of December. We quickly set up the RV, packed and flew out of Orlando to Milwaukee the next day. We were very fortunate to spend time with family and Rick's dad before his passing on the 10th. He will certainly be missed by many and we hope that he is catching the big ones in heaven. Rest easy Dad!
The remainder of our time in WI is spent with family and friends, playing cards, baking cookies and candies, and a couple of massages. It seems the excessive sitting on the plane, driving to FL, etc. has taken its toll and the need to work out the kinks is much needed. The weather has been a bit cold for our liking but we were able to wake one morning to a beautiful snowfall, which made it more festive.
The month in WI has flown by and our time here is coming to an end. We will be spending Christmas with family and flying out on the 28th, back to warm, sunny FL.
Until next year...Merry Christmas to all and the very best of wishes for a better New Year!
After spending over a week in the big city, we were looking forward to getting back to the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. We found a VA State Park on our way to our next destination that would do the trick! Pocahontas State Park, just outside of Chesterfield, VA fit the bill and we scored a wonderful, private pull thru site! Even thought the store, nature center and CCC museum were closed due to COVID, we enjoyed a wonderful walk thru the woods to a small dam and waterfall. Some people need to be in the city with others and some need the country and the great outdoors to be grounded. We are certainly one of the latter! We spent 2 days at this lovely park and we look forward to staying at more VA state parks in the future.
While in the area, we took the short drive into Richmond to visit another battlefield...sort of. We originally set out to explore Richmond National Battlefield Park but ended up spending our entire time at the American Civil War Museum. It happened to be right next to the Richmond Battlefield Visitor Center, which was closed, so we wandered over to see what it was about. It was a bit pricey at $16 per person, but we were pleasantly surprised at the high calibur of museum it turned out to be! The way they displayed artifacts was brilliantly done and the amount of artifacts for this private museum was staggering. We spent several hours in the museum and really enjoyed it. The museum is housed in the Historic Tredgar Iron Works factory and the way they incorporated the ruins with the new building inside and out was very well done. Just a top notch facility and highly recommend it you are ever in the area.
Up on the hill, behind the museum and battlefield visitor center is the White House of the Confederacy, which was the home of confederate president Jefferson Davis and his family, 1861-1865.
We will certainly be back to this area. There was soo much to explore and our time just ran out. We would have liked to stay longer but were excited to get to our next destination and visit with friends in the greater Greensboro, NC area. We spent Thanksgiving 2018 with Vicki and Ryan and were really looking forward to visiting with them and their fur babies again. Unfortunately, the campground we stayed at in 2018 was booked for the High Point Furniture Expo, as was everything else around. We ended up finding a peaceful little Boondockers Welcome location about an hour away. We quickly setup and drove into Winston-Salem to meet with our friends at Mellow Mushroom for dinner. We looove the pizza at Mellow Mushroom and this visit did not disappoint. We enjoyed catching up with Vicki and Ryan and then spent the next day at their house, getting our doggie fix and enjoying some wonderful BBQ that Ryan smoked and some yummy lemon bars that Vicki made. Sorry, we forgot to take pics of the awesome food but did get a pic of the delicious wine and dear friend!
We headed out early the next morning, as we had a long drive ahead of us to make it to our workamping gig at Valley River RV Resort. It started out as a beautiful drive, approaching the Smokies and trees starting to show their colors, but the closer we got, the worse the weather got. We pulled into the resort after a white knuckle drive through the Nantahala Gorge in the rain later than expected, but quickly got set up in what would be our home for the next two months. We love it here and work with some fantastic folks who made us feel right at home, not to mention managers that truly appreciate their volunteers! More on our adventures here in Murphy, NC in our next post.
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We are finally catching up and in to October! We have been patiently waiting for our visit to Washington D.C. We have been planning on this visit since the beginning of the year since we were going to meet up with our boys for their first visit to D.C. I have been here twice before, once with my high school trip and once with Rick right after we were married. We came out with the restaurant he worked for at the time, The Machine Shed. They were invited to D.C. for the Folk Life Festival, sponsored by the Smithsonian, that ran the week before and the Fourth of July weekend. In 1996 the featured state was Iowa, where the Machine Shed restaurant is based. The restaurant had two food tents on the National Mall that we worked at. We had a blast even though temps were over 100 and HUMID!! We were ringing wet all day long, but to be there to see the fireworks on the National Mall was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
Since the entire family is in to history, this was a highly anticipated trip to share the museums, monuments and everything that is D.C. with the boys. Then COVID hit, and the riots. We started to second guess whether it was wise to go or not. We watched the openings start to happen and decided that there was enough open to make it a monumental trip. (Ha, see what I did there??? Monumental... HAHAHA) The Washington Monument opened the week we were there but with VERY limited tickets to ride the elevator to the top. Unfortunately we did not score a ticket.
We stayed at Cherry Hill RV Park in College Park, MD, which is the closest rv park to downtown D.C. Even though the parks specific D.C. tours were not running, we really enjoyed our stay and took advantage of the free bus transportation to the METRO station nearby to hop on the subway to downtown. I was apprehensive at first with the METRO since I am not a public transportation kinda gal, but it was pretty empty and we didn't have any issues.
The rv park was really nice. It was gated and nicely landscaped. Being the beginning of October we did not partake in the pools but they looked like they would be very busy in the summer months. They had a very comprehensive store, including an RV section that would rival a small Camping World! We were able to get our mail forwarded to the office and order some Amazon items while we stayed at the park. The sites were decent sized and the park was about 1/3, maybe half full on the weekend and emptier during the week. Many of the amenities were on abbreviated schedules or just not in play due to COVID. Kids would have an amazing time here and never need to leave the park. I really enjoyed the super nice, clean laundry room. The only negative was the traffic noise. Oh my goodness... The location is at the intersection of two interstates that were always busy! Even inside with the AC running, you could still easily hear the traffic. I will say though, after our 4th day there, it became background noise. I would definitely stay here again, but would choose a different area of the park to stay in that would be a bit quieter.
We arrived two days before the boys flew in so we could get acclimated and organized before they arrived. Rick also was able to meet up with his roommate from his time in the Army in Fulda, Germany back in the late 80's. They picked up like no time had passed at all and had a great afternoon catching up.
The boys arrived on the red eye and had no issues on their flight from WI. Masks all the way and no middle seat passengers so they had room to spread out. With only 4 full days we had to maximize our days while the boys were with us. We decided to hit the ground running and tour DC by the hop on, hop off trolley. On the first day we stayed on the trolley through the first several stops to be able to go to the American History Museum. The driver was a great tour guide and pointed out alot of the buildings and structures we were passing and the history all around us. The plan was to then jump back on the trolley after the museum and ride around the monuments before heading back to our first stop to catch the Metro back to the station and then the bus to the campground. We paid a bit more to add on a day and the plan was to take the trolley the second day and stop at the stops we wanted to explore more. We had the best of intentions but unfortunately the unrest in the city had different plans. All went well the first day, getting to the Metro station on the free Metro bus, riding the Metro to downtown and then getting on the trolley.
Our first hint of an issue was when the driver said the stop for the White House was unavailable for the day. No problem, we'll hit that the next day. We then took the trolley past Fords Theatre, Union Station and the Freedom Bell, around the Capitol and Library of Congress, past the US Air and Space Museum that is under renovation until 2022 and got off near the Smithsonian Castle so that we could walk to the National Mall and over to the Museum of American History. With Covid you need to buy a time ticket to enter those facilities that are open, even though it is free. We had a bit of time to kill before our time so we grabbed a quick lunch from the food truck on the mall near the Washington Monument and watched the Semi Trucks gathered on the mall in support of President Trump. Even got the boys to pose for a family selfie.
I don't remember visiting the National Museum of American History in the past and was really impressed with the broad spectrum of American History it covered. Think more pop culture history than historic history. There was the iconic batman car, dresses from numerous First Ladies through the years, Julia Child's kitchen with all her authentic cookware and stove, the modes of transportation through the years, a tribute to our military including a piece of the Berlin Wall, the last Vietnam Huey in service and the coolest house shown through the centuries in cutaways, chronicling five families that lived there,
We spent a couple hours in the museum and could have probably stayed longer but we were getting tired and were looking forward to getting back on the trolley to see the rest of our DC tour. Unfortunately, that was not in the cards for us. As we waited for a trolley to come by, 10 minutes stretched into over a half hour and a loud, demonstration was getting closer and more fired up. Knowing this was not going to be a good situation, especially since there were squad cars with lights on and police on horseback with the crowd growing closer and getting more enraged, we decided to start walking in the other direction, and in a brisk pace. We realized that the trolley had probably shut down in this area due to the escalating situation. We hoofed it over 14 blocks back to the Metro and called it a day. Well the fun for the day wasn't over. We successfully got on the Metro back to our bus stop and then proceeded to wait over an hour for the bus. With patience running short, we decided to hail an Uber and after over a half hour one arrive to take four weary travelers back to the RV park. Oh, but the easy 15 minute ride turned into almost an hour as there was a water main break and the Friday 5pm traffic was being diverted down tiny streets and alleys. By the time we got back to the RV we were sooo tired and hungry!
We all slept good that night and were ready to try again figuring it can only get better, right? Wrong!!! Saturday was also going to be a challenge with ALOT of unexpected walking but it was worth it to visit the monuments that we did not get to see the day before. When we arrived to the trolley we were informed that there were some scheduled marches and rallies and that the trolley stops would be very abbreviated, even more than the day before. They tried to include a couple off the beaten path streets but the tour just wasn't getting at what we wanted. The second day, we decided to get off at the same location near the castle and walk down the National Mall to the Washington Monument to try and see most of the monuments in that location. We were very aware of the environment around us to ensure we didn't get caught in the middle of a bad situation as it was a very active day for protests. For time frame, this was 4 weeks before the election.
It was another beautiful day, weather wise, and we had a nice stroll down to the Washington Monument. We noticed there was a rally set up with a stage off to the side of the monument and there were alot of people around listening to the speakers on the stage. There was music and cheering at this rally so we felt a bit at ease. There was still a large police presence in the area. Getting closer we saw it was a pro-Trump rally. We weren't able to get too close to the monument since it was gated off and police were all around. Both were certainly a theme all around DC, which was unfortunate. Definitely a repeating theme...
We then made our way over to the WWII memorial which was beautiful! Rick took some wonderful panoramic pictures to try and capture it all.
At this point we realized there was no way we were going to be able to walk to all of the monuments so we had to narrow down the list. We walked past the WWI memorial on our way to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This is one of the best memorials in my opinion. The soldiers seem to be walking through the mist in the shadow of their fallen comrades etched in the granite wall. The memorial is supposed to be even better when lit up at night but unfortunately with the unrest in the area, all night time tours were canceled.
The Lincoln Memorial was next up on our list. This was the most multicultural experience in our entire DC trip. Upon walking up we saw numerous people dressed in white, holding colorful umbrellas and singing/chanting on the steps of the reflecting pool in front of the memorial. Upon a closer look, it was a large group of Jamaican individuals. Not sure if it was a rally or reunion but they were definitely enjoying themselves. Behind them on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was a group of Amish who gathered on the steps and began to sing church type songs. There were various other peaceful groups mulling about the area, enjoying the beautiful day. It seemed a very appropriate place for all to be gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Our last memorial was the Vietnam Memorial which was another moving experience. The understated simplicity of the memorial is overshadowed by the angles and the extensive length. To see the small trinkets and letters certainly put it all into perspective!
At this point it was late afternoon, we were hungry and tired. We debated getting another Uber because we knew the trolleys were no longer operating but decided to walk several blocks to get something to eat in the Washington University area on our way back to the Metro. After a little to eat we were ready to power through our last trek to the Metro...uphill. We could hear chanting and megaphones in the distance and knew our time in DC was up. After 20 some blocks later, we arrived back at the Metro. The walk back did leave a lasting impression on all of us. We walked past numerous blocks of beautiful, historic buildings that had damage and graffiti spray painted all over them. There were also numerous businesses boarded up. These buildings were all around the White House. We did manage to get a picture of the White House from a block away through chain link since there were multiple layers of tall fencing. Some of the fences had respectful Black Lives Matter messaging with some having more hateful anti-Trump messaging. It was a certainly a solemn walk through the destruction.
We had a successful Metro to bus transfer back to the RV park and we all agreed we were ready to explore other areas of DC. On Sunday, Nicholas met up with one of his friends to tour around DC in his little european car. Meanwhile, Rick, Brady and I decided to go to the Air and Space Museum out near Dulles Airport since they are housing several items from the downtown DC location that is under renovation. We spent several hours at the museum and saw alot of different aircrafts, including Space Shuttle Discovery. We'll let the pictures do the talking.
Our time with the boys was drawing to a close, so on the last day we decided to take a drive down the beautiful George Washington Memorial Parkway to Mount Vernon. We purchased tickets online for the grounds but did not buy tickets to the house as there were only ones at the end of the day available. Good thing we didn't since only part of the first floor was open. We could peek in the windows and see a bit. Besides, the grounds are really where its at. Not only is there the main house, but the rest of the farm, gardens, greenhouse, wharf, slaves quarters and memorial, the tomb of George and Martha Washington and a first class museum. The museum itself was worth the price of admission. We also learned that Mount Vernon is privately owned and operated since 1858 by the Mount Vernon's Ladies Association. Another interesting fact is that the mansion only looks like stone but is actually all wood. A process called rustication where sand is thrown on the wet paint..
Once seeing the iconic mansion, we moved on to explore the property. The gardens and the greenhouse were very well kept and had identifying markers for all of the plants, trees and flowers, including the massive Tulip Poplar, circa 1766.
The tomb of George and Mary Washington was an interesting one. There was an original tomb built prior to either of their deaths, but it came upon ill repair and in an undesirable area. In George's will he directed that a new tomb be built below the vineyard hill. It was completed over 30 years after his death and George, Martha and 20 other family members were moved to the new tomb.
George Washington is quite the progressive farmer back in the day and has some pretty sophisticated ways of farming for that time period. He practiced 7 year crop rotation, transitioned from tobacco to wheat and incorporated a mill and distillery.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the grounds was the museum. It was very well done and depicted the life of George, his family, as well as an exhibit on his evolving viewpoint on slavery during that time, which was quite interesting. In his will, his slaves were to be set free, however, those slaves owned by Martha, reverted back to her family upon her death, leaving many slave families ripped apart. The most interesting part of the museum was the life-sized forensic models that depicted George at ages 19, 45 and 57 as we would have looked based on thorough research.
Our time in Washington, DC had come to an end and we sure packed alot into a couple days! It was quite a challenge to navigate the politically charged climate in the city, coupled with all of the COVID closures, but I think the boys got a good feel for all the DC has to offer and will most likely be back some day when they can explore more of the museums and areas that were closed.
The boys caught an early morning plane on Tuesday and we headed out on Wednesday to Richmond, VA for our next adventure. Whew...and we are still not caught up to where we are now in North Carolina. One more post should get us up to date. Writing this post has really made me realize just how much we had packed into the last couple months!
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